Go-go, go-slow, or no-go? This might be the question you ask yourself as you wake up on a weekend morning after a late night, knowing that you have lots to accomplish before the day is out. How am I feeling? Full of energy or at least full of motivation? Not so much so, but it’ll get done somehow? Or, forget it, I’m staying in bed? Or it might be the question you ask yourself in a critical meeting, when you’re trying to decide which strategy is most likely to meet with success (either for you and your position or for the greater good). Should I dive in fully committed to this approach, even though I’m not sure it will be the best path for me? Should I voice a position of non-committal or compromise, trying to keep my options open? Or should I dig in my heels and say no?
This question of whether to approach an activity (or life) with a go-for-it attitude, with more careful consideration, or by sticking with the status quo can be interpreted many ways. It’s remarkably relevant in pretty well every way one can imagine. It also so happens that go-go, go-slow, and no-go define the three phases of retirement. I bet most of you didn’t even know there were three phases to retirement, unless you’re already in the second or third phase!
Interestingly, I started noticing this catch phrase in financial advice articles (or wealth management, to use their current euphemism) on retirement. These articles were actually giving the good advice to understand that you could be looking at a long retirement and, with that in mind, don’t save your time – and your money – until your go-go phase passes you by. Because it will happen. And your go-slow phase typically doesn’t cost nearly as much. Think costly and worth-every-penny travel, think heavy-duty sports, etc. So these financial advisors were reminding their readers of precisely what I have tried to suggest in past blog posts: don’t put off today what you think you can do tomorrow. Maybe you can and maybe you can’t, maybe it will matter and maybe it won’t. But in case it will matter to you, do it now … or at least sooner rather than later. You have the permission of your financial advisor!
The other component of this reality check about the retirement phase(s) of life has to do with our mantra that 50 is the new 40, 60 is the new 50, and 70 is the new 60. It’s nice that we have that mindset; mind over matter has validity. However, our bodies haven’t cottoned on to this shift in aging. As one of the financial advising articles reminded its readers, a 70-year old body today has aged just as much as a 70-year old body 50 years ago, something I am increasingly familiar with. My body tells me so! It gets a lot more help from modern medical miracles to keep going, but it’s not a 60-year old body. That’s where the go-slow phase starts kicking in.
None of this is bad. It’s just the way it is. But knowing this when you’re not there yet can help you plan for when you are there. Some thoughts:
- If there are places you really want to see and experience, don’t wait until your body can’t cooperate. I know you don’t believe it now, but at some point you will get tired from doing very little!
- If there are people who are important to you, make sure you let them know from time to time. Find ways to stay in touch.
- For those of you in the midst of being beyond busy with work and with children’s busy lives, make sure to carve out a little bit of time for yourself. Choose you over something else. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that you are still an individual as well as a parent, a spouse, and a colleague. I can remember almost forgetting that person had ever existed. At some point down the road that person – you –really will have time to be you again. And you don’t want to lose touch with that person in the interim.
- From time to time, consider not just what will make you feel excited to get out of bed in the morning when you are in the go-go phase of retirement, but what will bring you personal fulfillment in your go-slow and no-go phases of retirement. You will be well prepared if you have sustaining interests and sustaining friendships.
Whatever phase of life you are in, find ways to be kind to yourself and kind to others. This world needs that, badly.